Visiting a new restaurant for the first time is a little like a blind date. You’re full of expectations, but fear you’ll be disappointed. All the more gratifying, then, when you encounter a pleasant surprise like Star Bistro, a small, family-run restaurant in Cooper City. Sweet and charming, it’s owned by chef Rod Aracki, who is striking out on his own after decades in other kitchens, first in his native Serbia, then in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and, in South Florida at Café Maxx, East City Grill, the Down Under, Martha’s and The Forge.
At Star Bistro, open since November, he’s joined in the kitchen by daughter Maja and her husband, Goran. His sons Steven and Patrick wait tables with their neighbor Brian and friend Jason, who watches over your water glasses intently – if only most romances had this much commitment. You’ve got to like this young staff – well-trained, accommodating and so earnest. Our waiter said he was learning about wine, but he knew enough to steer us to a delightful, dry South African Graham Beck Brut rosé for $33 (“the same beverage with which Nelson Mandela toasted his inauguration in 1994” and Barack Obama his election in 2008, according to the label). The wine list features about 30 mostly boutique labels with helpful descriptions and five by the glass for $7-$9. The menu features creative renditions of American dishes with Asian and European influences. Just about everything is made here, from the freshly baked, tomato-studded focaccia to the yuzu-flavored cheesecake.
Ambience: The cheery storefront has six comfy, oversize booths, bare, dark wood tables and a colorful, circus-style mural left from its previous incarnation as Mustard Seed Bistro.
- Aromatic tomato bisque, made with carrots, onions, lots of garlic and basil
- Banana-crusted goat cheese salad – small discs coated with unsweetened banana chips and panko crumbs, fried to a light crisp and served with sliced, caramelized bananas on cool field greens tossed with a sweet-tart banana-lime vinaigrette
- Spinach salad with strawberries, Macadamia nuts and creamy polenta croutons
- Plump, porcini-dusted pan-seared scallops with a tender finish
- Tender skirt steak marinated with fresh herbs and green and pink peppercorns and served with hash browns and vegetables
- Juicy and well-seasoned rack of lamb served with a fun angel-hair pasta “pie” (cooked in a ramekin with custard and Parmesan) plus grilled asparagus and roasted red pepper, zucchini, portabello and eggplant slices
- Chicken breast marinated with white wine and fresh herbs and served with roasted fingerling and purple potatoes
- Beef Madagascar – flat-iron steak deglazed with brandy, cooked with lots of shallots, leeks and tomatoes and finished with heavy cream
- A warm, flourless chocolate soufflé with vanilla ice cream
- Refreshing cheesecake made with yuzu (a lemony Japanese citrus)
- A lovely, cinnamon-scented apple tart drizzled with house-made caramel sauce and served a la mode
What Didn’t Work